The Airport Hire - Part 1: Sir I am a Uber driver

Trip distance: 36.79km
Earnings: 1724.25 LKR

It was another Saturday. The first two hires for the day was just taking me around my residential area itself. I expected this to be a regular, or even possibly more boring, day.

The fourth hire for the day directed me to pick someone from a new hotel that came up in Colombo. The name indicated someone from our neighbouring country. While I was on the way to pick him up, I got a call from him.

"Hello, I booked you through Uber."
"Yes sir, good morning. I am on the way to pick you up."
"Ah good morning. Can you kindly come to the entrance on Marine drive please? I think this shows you some other entrance."
"Sure, I will get there."

Regardless of my habit of calling almost every driver I booked on Uber after I book them, I've come to realise that only a very few number of customers do thdt. This works both ways. Sometimes, the customers who do call are in an extreme hurry and have unreasonable demands on how fast I should pick them up. Some others call to ask why I am driving somewhere away because they couldn't understand in the app that I am still completing a drop off. When you are driving, these kind of conversations can get annoying. However any helpful messages about where exactly to pick them up or where to wait till they come out, are always welcomed.

As I rolled my vehicle slowly in to the hotel porch, I saw a gentleman checking between his phone and my vehicle several times. He had a small travel suitcase right next to him. This was going to be my first airport drop off.

"Good morning sir!" I greeted him rolling the shutter down. "Airport?"
"Yes airport. Can I put my luggage at back?"

As we drove out of the hotel, I did a quick check on his departure time. All was well and we broke in to a small chat. He was working in the same field as my day job. He has come to Sri Lanka to discuss some matters with regards to the partner company in Sri Lanka. I felt proud that there are businesses based in India, a country with a massive output of students in the particular field, felt that it was worthwhile hiring from Sri Lanka. Soon the discussions moved in to the most unfortunate incident we had in the year, the Easter Attacks of 2019.

"You know, we always felt that you guys were very lax in security after the war. But even in LTTE times you didn't check people coming to hotels no?" he asked.
"Yes sir. LTTE was different. Their way was to get the sympathy of the western world."
"Yes true true. Of course in India, we have had hotel attacks before. We are very vigilant because of that."

We discussed a little more about the security arrangements in India. How tourists have a very difficult time buying mobile connections, how each visitor to a hotel is checked for their luggage etc. Indian security is quite strict to the level such that many buildings are still not allowed to be photographed because they can be used for various types of attack planning. I got to know from him that there is also no Google street view in many places in India.

Halfway through the conversation, we hit a very slow moving traffic. The bus in front of me was trying to block another bus and in the process was disrupting the entire traffic flow. I alerted the customer that this is going to be a bit of a rough ride, and decided to over take the offending bus. Just fifty meters down from where I overtook the bus a policeman waved me down with a bright smile.

"Good morning," he said through the rolled down shutter.
"Good morning sir" 
"What happened there eh?" the smile was back on the officer's face.
I checked the side mirror to the patch I overtook. I have actually overtaken over a single-line marker. Or in other words, an illegal overtake.
"Single-line no sir? Sorry sir" I tried an apologetic smile.
The officer chuckled and asked for my license and insurance. And motioned me to get out of the car and meet him at his patrol bike.
 I could see him pulling out the fines book and getting ready to write down my details. I got to him very quickly.
"Sir sorry sir, I know it is my fault. I am dropping that person to airport. Please see if you can do something?"
"Do something? What do you want me to do?"
"Give a warning sir?"
"Yeah yeah all of you want us to give warnings. You guys never change. Can't help. I'm writing a fine."
This was going to be a tough one. I tried my last bit of luck.
"Sir I am on a hire also/"
"Yes sir, I am an Uber driver."
The officer took his sunglasses off and looked at me.
"You? You are an Uber driver."
"Yes sir. I picked him up from..."
"Here look boy, don't try these nonsense with me. Uber driver. Told you once that I am not going to just let you go. You think you can just make a fool out of me? Uber driver. My foot. Here's the fine and the charge sheet. Get out of here now."

I walked back to the car and apologized to the customer about the delay.  He wanted to know what the "damage" was and I brushed it away. Thankfully for him, this little encounter did not cost him much time and he managed to get to the airport on time.

I looked at the app to see the earned amount on that last trip. 1724 LKR something. I looked at the fine sheet the officer gave me. 2500 LKR - he had actually booked me for a minor charge. This could've been worse. I drove in to the airport car park, paying another 150 LKR.


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